[News] Why Aristide's Party Won't Vote - Interview with Dr. Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 17 13:14:13 EST 2010
November 17, 2010
Interview with Dr. Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas
Why Aristide's Party Won't Vote
By JUDITH SCHERR
Dr. Maryse Narcisse is a physician, coordinator
of the Fanmi Lavalas executive committee and
spokesperson for Fanmi Lavalas in Haiti. Fanmi
Lavalas is the political party founded in 1996 by
President Jean Bertrand Aristide, now living in
forced exile in South Africa. The interview that
follows, conducted in Haiti in September, has
been edited for clarity and length by the
interviewer and Narcisse. Excluded from
participating, Fanmi Lavalas remains firm in
condemning the Nov. 28 presidential and
legislative elections as illegitimate and will
not participate, according to Narcisse.
JUDITH SCHERR: What is Fanmi Lavalas?
Dr. MARYSE NARCISSE: Lavalas is a grassroots
political organization that works with the
poorest, the marginalized people, those in need of support.
SCHERR: What do you mean in need of support?
NARCISSE: For almost 200 years, the majority of
Haitians have been excluded from participation in
the political life of this country. Theyve also
been excluded through lack of access to
education, healthcare and other basic services.
Lavalas is fighting for real changes in Haitian
society by advocating for access to health
services, education, economic opportunities and democracy in Haiti.
December 16, 1990 was an important date: For the
first time, the Haitians voted in a free and fair
election and elected Jean Bertrand Aristide to lead the country.
SCHERR: What was Aristides role in the formation of Lavalas?
NARCISSE: Aristide created Fanmi Lavalas. He
symbolizes the fight of poor, marginalized people in this country.
SCHERR: With Aristide in exile, Lavalas continues is that correct?
NARCISSE: Yes. Fanmi Lavalas is a duly registered
political organization. President Aristide is in
exile, but Fanmi Lavalas is still functioning as
a political organization. But since President
Aristides forced departure, Lavalas has been
targeted by the Haitian government and its
allies. Members and sympathizers of Fanmi Lavalas
Party have been harassed, wrongfully jailed, or
fired from their jobs. There has been a lot of repression.
SCHERR: Why cant Lavalas participate in the Nov. 28 elections?
NARCISSE: The Haitian government and its allies
are illegally preventing and excluding Fanmi
Lavalas, from participation in the electoral
process. The Haitian government, some powerful
Haitian sectors and a part of the international
community have excluded the people -- the
majority. Fanmi Lavalas exclusion is political,
in violation of Haitian law and international human rights law.
As required for any political organization, Fanmi
Lavalas has been registered here in the country
at the Ministry of Justice since November 1996.
Fanmi Lavalas has the certificate of official
recognition by the Ministry of Justice. Fanmi
Lavalas participated in many elections -- in 2000, 2001, etc.
Now, lets go back to the legislative elections
of April and June 2009. On Dec. 3, 2008, a new
electoral council (Provisional Electoral Council
or CEP) asked all parties all political
organizations to register again for the
electoral process. So we re-registered and have
Registration Form No. 016 signed by the CEP
representative and me as coordinator. Everything
seemed to be working correctly. After the
registration, there was a period for people to
contest the registered parties. That period ended
in January 2009. The CEP published the list of
parties that were authorized to participate in
the April and June 2009 legislative elections.
Fanmi Lavalas was third on this list.
After that, they opened a registration process
for the candidates. Fanmi Lavalas signed a
mandate as required by electoral law for every
candidate we had chosen to represent the
organization. They verified my signature and the
12 Fanmi Lavalas candidates were registered.
At the end of the candidate registration period,
there was a rumor going around that Fanmi Lavalas
registered more than one candidate for each
position. I did not believe it, because the
selection process was public within the
organization -- we had an electoral commission
which chose 12 candidates and we couldnt have more than 12 candidates.
SCHERR: There wasnt another list of people claiming to be Fanmi Lavalas?
NARCISSE: We learned that another person, Yves
Cristallin, registered additional candidates
under the Fanmi Lavalas banner. We couldnt
believe it. First, the deadline for contesting
party registration was over and secondly,
according to electoral law, only the person who
registered a party could sign a mandate for the senatorial candidates.
SCHERR: And you had already registered the party.
NARCISSE: Yes but the Haitian government
allowed him [Yves Cristallin] to register
additional candidates under Fanmi Lavalas. Soon
after, Cristallin joined the private office of
the president and after that he was appointed
Minister of Social Affairs. Today hes a presidential candidate.
[At this point, the CEP disqualified Fanmi
Lavalas because there were two different
candidate lists presented.] We went to court to
challenge the decision of the electoral council
to exclude Fanmi Lavalas from participating in
the election. We won, but the CEP refused to
accept our participation in the April and June 2009 elections.
SCHERR: You won in court, but the CEP could overrule what the judge said?
NARCISSE: No. The CEP cannot overrule or
disregard a court order. The CEP decided not to
respect the [March 9, 2009] court decision and
wouldnt allow us to participate. At that time,
we sent the original mandate signed by President
Aristide [authorizing Narcisse as the
representative]. The CEP allowed someone with no
authority to represent Fanmi Lavalas to register
additional candidates after the period for
registration had ended and tried to blame Lavalas for the additional candidates
The CEP violated Haitian law and actively
participated in preventing Lavalas participation
in the elections. That is not the purview of an
electoral council. [Fanmi Lavalas boycotted these
elections; turnout was variously reported between 3 percent and 11 percent.]
There was another election scheduled for February
28, 2010. We received a letter from the CEP
inviting President Aristide to participate in the
coming electoral process. I sent the letter to
President Aristide [in South Africa] and he
answered it. He wrote a letter to the CEP
president thanking him for the invitation, but
said that he mandated me to represent the
organization before the electoral council until
he returned. When I brought the letter to the
CEP, they said Oh, we dont want a copy of the
letter. They said they wanted the original
letter, not a copy or a fax. President Aristide
was ready to speak personally with the CEP
president to tell him that he had sent the
letter, that the letter was authentic and to send
an e-mail directly to him. The CEP President
refused to provide his email address, or his telephone number at my request.
President Aristide sent the original letter by
DHL [international mail service] from South
Africa. The letter was notarized by a Haitian
notary. We brought the letter to the CEP. At a
press conference the next day, the CEP said the
original letter and copy were different. Rumors
about a false mandate and probable arrests started to circulate.
SCHERR: They said you had brought a false document?
NARCISSE: As stated before, the documents were
notarized by a Haitian Notary -- he attested to
the authenticity of the documents. In addition,
President Aristide, during an interview on Nov.
25, 2009 on Radio Solidarité further
authenticated the mandate, saying, Im the
person who wrote the letter, who signed it, who
sent it. According to Haitian law, a mandate can be verbal as well as written.
The next day I received a letter from the CEP
saying they wanted an authenticated mandate. It
seems that to authenticate the mandate, President
Aristide had to find a Haitian consulate in South
Africa, go in front of the consul and sign the
document. But there is no Haitian consulate in
South Africa. So, if he had to sign it at a
Haitian consulate, he would have to travel to do
it. But he cant travel, because he doesnt have
a valid passport. He has had no valid travel documents for six years.
When President Aristide spoke on the radio, he
said he was ready to come to Haiti to sign the
document. If the government would give him travel
documents hed be here the next day. The Haitian
government is refusing to allow President Jean
Bertrand Aristide to travel to Haiti.
The February elections didnt happen because of
the earthquake. When they started the Nov. 28
electoral process, President Préval announced
that everything that had been done before the
earthquake, regarding the February 2010
legislative elections, was still valid, and that
they werent going back: Fanmi Lavalas would
continue to be excluded from the 2010 elections.
There is no registration issue regarding Fanmi
Lavalas, the problem is that the CEP is not
allowing Lavalas to participate in the November 2010 elections.
By excluding Fanmi Lavalas from the elections
(the largest party with support and membership of
90 percent of the electorate) the government is
excluding the majority of the Haitian electorate
from exercising their right to choose their own candidate.
For us, the coming elections that are scheduled
for Nov. 28 are not fair; they are not honest;
they are not democratic. Nobody supporting this
process believes in democracy, even the
international community. The international
community is providing most of the funding for
the elections. Thats hypocrisy: The
international community speaks loudly about
democracy and human rights, but supports and pays for illegal elections.
SCHERR: Is Fanmi Lavalas calling on people to boycott the elections?
NARCISSE: I have said we are not participating in
an illegal election. The Nov. 28 elections are
not elections, it is a selection process. What
were doing now is mobilizing people, sensitizing
people against the selection. With this selection
process, we are not going anywhere. We are moving
towards instability that will last for many years.
Eight months after the earthquake, nothing has
changed. People are in the streets. If you go
inside a camp [for earthquake survivors], you can
see the situation. People are living in
conditions that human beings are not supposed to live in.
Now, in addition to this difficult social
situation, the government and the CEP want to add
a political problem. So, what were doing, is
trying to make people understand that these
elections cannot happen. If they select someone,
this person wont have any legitimacy and will
not be able to bring changes in the peoples
living conditions. Our work now, is to mobilize
the people against the Nov. 28 selection.
SCHERR: At this point, you cant go to court again. Theres no judicial path?
NARCISSE: The Préval government has weakened all
the institutions in this country. The judicial
system is very weak. The Senate has only 16
senators [terms of other Senators and all
Deputies have expired] and consequently the
Parliament is not functional. So the only
institution functioning is the presidency. We
want a country with strong and functioning
institutions. All the current process is doing is
to further weaken the Haitian institutions.
So its clear to us, that now, we Haitians have
to fight for our rights. There is nothing else to
do. The government is not informing the Haitians
about the reconstruction. All of the so-called
government plans for reconstruction are made
abroad. There is no Haitian participation in the
reconstruction. We have a puppet government. Even
myself -- Im a professional I cannot tell you
very much about the reconstruction process,
because nobody knows what the government wants to do.
SCHERR: Tell me about the status of President
Aristide. He doesnt have a passport. What does he need in order to return?
NARCISSE: The government is refusing to provide
him with a passport. According to Haitian law,
any former presidents supposed to have a
diplomatic passport for life. When you finish
your presidency, thats a benefit that youre
entitled to receive from the state. This is not a
favor. This is what theyre supposed to do according to the law.
SCHERR: Has there been pressure from the
international community either to return him or to keep him out of Haiti?
NARCISSE: I believe that the international
community is exerting pressure for him not to
come back to Haiti. But they are not doing it
openly; they are operating behind a curtain. They
do not want Aristide to come back. After six
years, hes still present in the peoples hearts
in everyday life here, everyone talks about
Aristide. Even in these elections, you can see
that people every candidate, even if they were
against Aristide in the past talks about
President Aristide. I heard a candidate who was
in the opposition, saying, If Im elected today,
tomorrow or the next day Aristide will receive his passport.
SCHERR: Didnt Préval say that when he was running?
NARCISSE: He never said anything when he was
running. Préval campaigned for president without
speaking. He benefited from his close ties with
Fanmi Lavalas. All the people were thinking: its
better to have him, a person close to Lavalas;
this is the best chance for Aristide to come back to the country.
We must come back to principles. Im against the
fact that when you finish your presidency, you
have to leave and be exiled. If the individual
has done something wrong, he should be judged. He
should be arrested. The story of Haiti has been
that most presidents go into exile. For Aristide,
it was different. He was not exiled after his
term in office. It was a coup; he was forced into
exile before he finished his term.
SCHERR: Is there anything you want to add that
people should know about Lavalas?
NARCISSE: First Id like to inform U.S. readers
that their tax money is being used to support a
non-democratic process in another country. I
think they have to know that, because what is
being done with the upcoming Nov. 28, 2010
election is contrary to human rights and
democracy. Fanmi Lavalas and other political
parties have been excluded from participating in the Nov. 28 selection.
What we need today is reconciliation. We need a
legitimate government. We need a national and
strong Haitian leadership. We need to work
together for the reconstruction of Haiti.
Judith Scherr is an independent journalist. She
can be reached at <mailto:judithscherr at gmail.com>judithscherr at gmail.com.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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